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That’s My Boy (2012)

by Steve Habrat

It hasn’t even been a year since comedian Adam Sandler unleashed the rotten Jack and Jill on audiences everywhere and now he’s back with That’s My Boy, an abrasive R-rated nightmare that doesn’t posses one ounce of shame. Reckless, irresponsible, and just plain wrong, That’s My Boy is another miss in a seemingly endless string of duds from the funnyman who has only come up with a small handful of decent comedies throughout his inexplicably long career. This time, Sandler seems hell-bent on destroying the career of Andy Samberg, fellow SNL alum who seems to grow more and more ashamed of himself with each passing frame of That’s My Boy. Filling the film with the usual Happy Madison suspects, Sandler crashes in with another slurring goofball character with a speech impediment, hooting and hollering over bodily fluids, warped back tattoos, and Vanilla Ice, all while telling a story that is painfully predictable. And then Sandler springs incest on us and things go from gross to downright nauseating.

That’s My Boy begins in 1984, with seventh grader Donny Berger hooking up with one of the hottest teachers in his grade school, Mary McGarricle (Played by Eva Amurri Martino). The student/teacher affair is eventually discovered and Mary ends up pregnant and facing thirty years in prison for the affair. The young Donny is stuck with raising the baby but he also becomes an overnight celebrity because of the affair. He ends up with tons of money and neglects his child who disappears when he turns eighteen. The film then skips to present day, with the adult Donny (Played by Adam Sandler) now a broke and washed up drunk who passes time in a rundown strip club trying to relive his glory days. Donny soon discovers that he owes $43,000 to the IRS and if he doesn’t pay up quick, he is looking at three years of jail time. Desperate to stay out of jail, Donny attempts to reconnect with his son, Todd (Played by Andy Samberg), on the eve of his wedding. Donny begins trying to lure Todd into unknowingly making an appearance on a reality television special that promises Donny a check of $50,000. As Donny and Todd reconnect, Donny begins to realize what a screw-up he was as a parent.

If you can believe it, That’s My Boy runs almost two whole hours and in those two hours, the film makes one joke about bodily fluids after another. There is a seamen joke here, a urine joke there, and feces thrown in for the hell of it. It also gets stuck on the joke that Donny just can’t leave the 80s behind, driving around still fumbling with cassette tapes in a beater car with a Rush decal stamped on the hood. What screenwriter David Caspe seems to not understand is that many of these raunchy R-rated comedies are successful and resonate with so many because they have an equal amount of heart behind all the crass behavior. This heart balances out all the penis and vagina jokes that these comedies like to harp on. That’s My Boy doesn’t have that balance, which causes the film to be extremely off-putting and mean spirited. This almost seems like an excuse for Sandler to dance around and humiliate Samberg, all while making half-hearted remarks about how good of a person he truly is.

When Sandler isn’t making Samberg blush, he is busy playing Donny like a mash-up of Billy Madison, Nicky from Little Nicky, and Bobby Boucher from The Waterboy. There is nothing that is wholly original or new about his latest stammering man-child, further proving that Sandler has absolutely no range as an actor. Samberg is handed the twisted role of a man nursing childhood wounds, still haunted by humiliation he suffered at the hands of his loudmouth father. He fears taking his shirt off in public due to an embarrassing tattoo of New Kids on the Block that covers his entire back. He also suffers from diabetes, can’t ride a bicycle, and lives in fear that he may have to throw or catch a baseball. He even had to change his name from Han Solo Berger to Todd Peterson and lie to his fiancé Jamie’s (Played by Leighton Meester) parents, telling them that his parents are long dead. Near the beginning, Samberg tries hard but as the film drags on, he seems to throw in the towel, as he realizes he is powerless to prevent this train wreck.

That’s My Boy is loaded with familiar Happy Madison faces, all who are absolutely talentless and not funny in the slightest. I’m still trying to figure out why Susan Sarandon and James Caan decided to show up to this horror show. The studio must have promised them a big paycheck because there is honestly no other reason why they should be here. Meester is given very little to do outside of act like a prissy pain in the ass and boss the twitchy Samberg around. Nick Swardson gets to come hang out and play a cross-eyed redneck creep who likes to hang around the strip club that Sandler’s character frequents. Peter Dante pops up briefly as a stoner who is eerily similar to the one that he played in the mediocre Grandma’s Boy. Will Forte gets to play things ultra geeky as Todd’s best man Phil, who throws what could be the lamest bachelor party on the planet. Milo Ventimiglia gets one of the better roles as Jamie’s Marine brother Chad who is overly intense and enjoys tormenting Todd every chance he gets. Also on the guest list is Vanilla Ice, who shows up as an even more washed-up version of himself, but at least he has the good sense to wink at the audience

Overall, no matter what I say, people are still going to flock to That’s My Boy and rave about how hilarious it is. Personally, I didn’t find it the slightest bit funny and found it downright sordid. Many may be quick to say I’m being uptight but as someone who enjoys a raunchy comedy as much as the next guy, I have to say I found this one empty, stupid, and redundant. Sandler and his crew hurl one shock at us after another and frankly, some of them seem desperate and recycled (old people talking dirty, overweight strippers bearing more than we need to see, full frontal male nudity). Near the end, Sandler puts a rotten cherry on top of this unholy shit sundae by diving headfirst into incest, making things even more appalling than they already are. Rather than pushing the raunchy R-rated comedy forward a few feet and making something worthwhile, That’s My Boy takes the subgenre back several feet and then sends it right down the toilet. I think it’s time that Sandler stepped away from the comedy genre before he does anymore damage.

Grade: F

Horrible Bosses (2011)

by Steve Habrat

Let’s be honest, the premise of Horrible Bosses, a revenge-fantasy comedy that places three Average Joes at the center of an intricate plot to off their bosses a la Alfred Hitchcock’s Stranger’s on a Train could strike a chord with many casual moviegoers. Why? Because who HASN’T had a boss that has made their lives a living hell! It’s an amusing “What if?” that provides some minor laughs in the dead heat of the summer and a surprisingly small picture going toe to toe with films like Transformers, Harry Potter, and Captain America. But the film has a charming underdog persona that many can’t quite ignore (It also happens to feature an all-star cast!) and leaves you hoping it will be remembered once it’s long gone from theaters. I say this because the film walks the fine line between classic dark comedy and comedy-no-one-will-remember-in-a-year territory. I consider it a blue-collar comedy that pours it’s blood, sweat, and tears into all the shenanigans to make you laugh but sometimes it comes up a bit short. It’s a shame it might get lost in shuffle.

Every summer has a sleeper hit that audiences pass on via word of mouth. It ends up making a boatload of money and it usually turns out to be a comedy. We’ve already had a 50/50 summer when it comes to comedy and, frankly, comedy has been very uninteresting for quite a while. We had Bridesmaids which was a surprise smash and was a breath of fresh air. Two weeks later, the guys of the Hangover crashed the party and left everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. We’ve also seen Bad Teacher, one that was heavily hyped but largely written off by many and Zookeeper, another dud chucked out by Happy Madison. Now we have the often witty, sometimes disappointing Horrible Bosses, in which three nice guys decide they’ve had enough of their tyrannical bosses and decide to off them for each other. By killing each other’s, they are spared a suspected motive by the police and they end getting off punishment free. It’s a bit of a tired premise and really isn’t that inspired of an idea, but it will resonate! Especially if you take the dry asides of Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), the screeching insanity of Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and smart-ass narcissism of Jason Sudeikis (SNL) and pair them up against the sadistic Kevin Spacey, man-eating Jennifer Aniston, and the under-used coke addict Colin Farrell.

The three amigos, Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day), and Kurt (Sudeikis) enlist the help of a professional killer in Mother Fucker Jones, played by the dead-pan Jamie Foxx. They slam their heads together and they embark on a bumbling journey to expel their demonoid bosses from planet earth. The usually sticky situations follow and they are mostly all amusing. They sneak around their intended victims homes, accidentally get high on cocaine, stupidly leave their DNA everywhere, and drool over a lingerie clad Aniston as she deep throats a popsicle, a banana, and a hot dog. It’s good to see a fresh line-up of comedians like we have here, but they seem a bit new to the scene, in all honesty. They try to ad-lib with the best of them but sometimes it’s a bit forced and amateur, especially from Day who relies on his bat-shit crazy persona he crafted for his character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He rattles off some winners and delivers some stink bombs that are intended to shock the audience into belly laughs. The most laughs come from Bateman, who delivers some zingers (One about fleeing to Canada will have you in stitches), Foxx who demonstrates extraordinary comedic timing (His explanation of how he got the name Mother Fucker will have you covering your mouth), and the largely ignored Colin Farrell, who delivers countless one liners that will leave you quoting for weeks (Wait until you see his outtakes!). Sudeikis fails to grab many of the chuckles and he passes himself off as a second rate Nick Swardson, who is funnier anyway. The casting could have been a bit stronger without his character. Spacey is clearly having fun but his character descends too far into downright evil territory. I know we are supposed to hate him but c’mon!! Aniston has some eyebrow-raising moments, mostly when she shows up almost nude in one particular scene and fires off more racy innuendos than any character in a Judd Apatow picture. She surprisingly churns out one of her better performances since Office Space. Julie Bowen (Modern Family) also shows up as Spacey’s wife but she is basically ignored in all the chaos.

There isn’t much to say in the way of Horrible Bosses. It’s charming even if it’s consistently raunchy and it’s hard to dislike it. There are clever gags and the film does not overstay it’s welcome by any stretch. It was a nice breather from all the explosions and superheroes that have been zipping around theaters. But I think that filmmakers could have poured a bit more time into this film. It’s a bit rough around the edges and appears rushed at times. You are left feeling that all the events that took place in the film were minor and insignificant. You want to rally behind it but sometimes it’s impossible to do just that. When all is said and done, it never really feels like these horrible bosses have had it stuck to them. Further, it falls short of the sleeper status that I thought would surely follow in its wake. Overall, it grasps at comedy greatness but comes up with comedy goodness. Don’t worry though; it will still have you chuckling to yourself as you punch the clock the next morning.

Grade: B-

Horrible Bosses is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

30 Minutes or Less (2011)

by Steve Habrat

It has become a custom for Hollywood to sneak a star-studded comedy into theaters during the last days of the summer movie season. It aims to lure in the remaining college and senior high school crowds who are looking to waste one of their last evenings of the summer. I will be the first to admit that I have started looking forward to these films, which include strokes of comedic brilliance like The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Funny People, Tropic Thunder, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. Each of these films is rambunctious in their own right and offered a much-needed break from the countless waves of CGI fakery. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good comedy to lighten the mood? This summer, we have Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes or Less and it seems that the comedic spell that blesses all the said films above did not cast a spell on this star studded heist comedy. In fact, 30 Minutes or Less isn’t blessed with much at all. It’s just consistently repulsive and foul mouthed. To make matters worse, it squanders all the talent that is attached to it every step of the way. I kept getting the impression that the film was a hell of a lot of fun to make but sadly, we the audience aren’t allowed in on the action.

Perhaps it was the concept itself, which revolves around a loser pizza delivery guy named Nick (Played by the always welcome Jesse Eisenberg) who apparently enjoys getting high and slinging pizza for a living. He works for Vito’s Pizza, who guarantees you get your pie in thirty minutes or less. Nick shacks up with Chet (Played by the always welcome Aziz Ansari), a dorky grade school teacher who finds joy in online dating and playing Call of Duty. One evening after a spat between the nebbish best friends, Nick finds himself abducted by the loudmouthed Dwayne (Played by the deadpan Danny McBride) and his clueless partner in crime Travis (Played by the childlike oaf Nick Swardson). They strap a bomb to Nick and demand that he rob a bank. Dwayne and Travis need a hundred grand so they can pay a Mexican hit man to knock off Dwayne’s wealthy father and run off with the inheritance. Naturally, chaos ensues and we are bombarded for eighty-three minutes with one moldy joke after another.

30 Minutes or Less is a brief film and it benefits from refusing to let the nonsensical events drag out for longer than they have to. The irony to all of this is that the film is entirely too long and it could be executed in, well, thirty minutes or less. There is drawn out bickering that disguises itself as character development yet we could care less about any specific character. It forces in a frail love story and you would honestly forget it was even there if the film didn’t constantly keep reminding you about it. The film also crams in a bizarre side story for the senseless Mexican hit man with a lisp. He seems there just so the film will be over eighty minutes and get a theatrical run. McBride, who is usually welcome comic relief, spews stale and raunchy adlibs as if they are outtakes from his hit show Eastbound & Down. Eisenberg, Ansari, and Swardson all flail around in front of the camera desperately attempting to land a joke that works but nothing really stands out from any of them. It’s a disgrace, really, as all are quite talented. They are forced to try to top one another every step of the way. What makes the film an even bigger disappointment is that director Fleischer, who made the goofily self-aware Zombieland, demonstrates none of the wit he brandished with his previous film. It’s just piercing and irritate.

To give you an example of this movie going experience, when the film quieted down for a few seconds (trust me, it’s rare in this one), you could actually hear one audience member sawing logs. It had me checking the time to see how much longer I needed to sit through it. It only managed to draw a few remote laughs from the audience members that remained, as I saw at least two groups of people (apparently families) head for the exit early on. At least it had the sixteen year olds sitting next to me doubled over in laughter, because it barely drew a chuckle from me. Their eyes also almost popped out of their eye sockets at the gratuitous nudity the film offers at one point.

All in all, the film is unremarkable. It’s not flat out unpleasant like The Hangover Part II but it’s certainly an underachiever similarly to its main protagonist. I just sat wishing I could re-watch McBride in Pineapple Express, or Eisenberg in Zombieland, or Ansari in episodes of Parks & Recreation, or Swardson in Grandma’s Boy. The film doesn’t even attempt to be sweet natured in its more subdued moments, as that is what made those other later summer comedies go down easier. I have the sneaking suspicion that when 30 Minutes or Less departs from theaters, many will never remember it even existed. It’s a comedic misfire. Grade: D+

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